> JUST IN: @WrightUps from above Indian Ocean says US P-8 crew "getting radar hits of significant size;" trying to get visuals on hits.
> Australian maritime authority official calls objects credible and of "reasonable" size; largest object about 24 meters.
ABC journalist David Wright [ is currently on the P8 plane that is searching for the debris.
Here's a tweet  from ABC's social media editor who (apparently) must have spoken to him over voice comms:
>.@WrightUps from Navy P-8 search plane: "We are just descending through clouds right now ... about 1,300 miles southwest of Australia."
The path of the plane may just have touched the radar's range at some point or some idea of the track may have been worked out.
Jindalee uses a directable beam to scan the area or interest. It takes hours to do a full sweep of its entire range (bear in mind that with over the horizon radars you have to do a 2D sweep, not the 1D sweep of a standard line of site radar). Generally speaking, the radar tends to be targeted on areas of specific interest, not just randomly sweeping (the sweep pattern depends on current threat profiles). Maybe if Malaysian authorities alerted Australia quickly enough they may have pointed the beam to the right area, but as I understand it the alert didn't start going out until much later.
Disclaimer: ex RAAF radar engineer...
Some more info: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/could...
EDIT - Clarification that the cockpit voice recorder (not flight data recorder) only captures the last two hours. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockpit_voice_recorder
Rather, it's a certification issue, and the certification process itself is so expensive that you don't simply upgrade every black box every 4 years as storage gets cheaper.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has asked for the installation of cockpit image recorders in large transport aircraft to provide information that would supplement existing CVR and FDR data in accident investigations. They also recommended image recorders be placed into smaller aircraft that are not required to have a CVR or FDR.
Such systems, estimated to cost less than $8,000 installed, typically consist of a camera and microphone located in the cockpit to continuously record cockpit instrumentation, the outside viewing area, engine sounds, radio communications, and ambient cockpit sounds. As with conventional CVRs and FDRs, data from such a system is stored in a crash-protected unit to ensure survivability.
"Revisions to Cockpit Voice Recorder and Digital Flight Data Recorder Regulations" 
The FAA proposed that all CVRs be able to retain the last two hours of cockpit audio. Both the NTSB and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada noted that the short duration of available cockpit audio hindered the investigation of several accidents.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) did not support the proposal to increase CVR recording time because the FAA did not propose any increase in the privacy protections regarding the access and use of information recorded on a CVR. The ALPA stated that existing protections are inadequate despite years of its attempts to change the standard.
EDIT : adjusted Gs
"Most FDRs record approximately 17–25 hours worth of data in a continuous loop."
EDIT: ah, it looks like you are talking about the cockpit voice recorder, which records 2 hours of data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockpit_voice_recorder
Yeah - sorry I should have clarified voice recorder not the flight data recorder. Will edit.
... unless whoever was smart enough to disable the transponders would disable the cabin mic, which would probably be the least informative condition
edit: just about everyone's beat me to it!
In my view, the moment this plane went off course, or a fire alarm went off or any other irregularity occurred, a Malaysian Airlines control center should have been alerted and been able to bring up video of the cockpit, maybe the passenger cabin as well, and been able to remotely view diagnostic and positioning data. All of this could easily and cheaply occur via a satellite internet connection.
Edit: For the record, I am not suggesting that plugging a commercial iPhone into a cockpit would work - I'm comparing the capabilities of consumer technology to cockpit technology, which seems woefully inadequate to me.
> Why does my iPhone - $850 retail - have capabilities that far surpass those of a $250 million modern passenger jet?
It is not unheard of, or unknown, for iPhones to crash, have unrecoverable data loss, or suffer from hardware issues like defective flash. A CVR needs to work all the time, without fail. People will excuse their iPhone crashing out from time to time. This is inexcusable on a CVR. You're talking about planes that run flight computers with three different CPUs and instruction sets to prevent bugs in the underlying silicon from manifesting.
> fire alarm went off or any other irregularity occurred, a Malaysian Airlines control center should have been alerted and been able to bring up video of the cockpit
Even without the technical constraints it's simply not worth it. Why would a control centre need live video of the cockpit in the case of a fire alarm going off? If there's a fire the crew are not phoning home. Communication with people outside the plane is a low priority. The 'Malaysian Airlines control center' is not going to be getting in touch with the pilots. That's not how it works.
> Hopefully after this incident, public outrage over these ridiculous technological shortcomings will be the catalyst for legislation
I have worked on hardware that goes into commercial jets. These rules may seem silly to outside observers, but those observers frequently don't realise exactly how harsh the environment is, and the constraints you're dealing with. What they are not are 'ridiculous technological shortcomings'. Commercial airline safety is already one of the most highly regulated forms of travel out there.
We don't use 'domestic' components for the same reason they don't use them for satellites: failure is not an option. The 'live video feeds' and 'constant satellite links' people keep bringing up are only of use in relatively minor emergencies. They serve no purpose during things like catastrophic mechanical failure, because you've already lost the satellite link at that point. The plane is going to go down. We will find the plane. We will find the CVR.
In your example of a catastrophic mechanical failure, a battery powered satellite link wouldn't necessarily lose touch until impact. At the very least, the plane's position would be known and rescuers dispatched. Critical evidence in this incident is likely long gone because of the time that has passed - even if we find it today. Video feeds etc. would at the very least assist in preventing future tragedies and help us understand exactly what happened. We would know, for example, the specific tactics of hijackers (if that was indeed the case) or that the pilot just went nuts, or if there was a mechanical or fire risk issue that must be addressed on other planes. We would know answers to questions we would likely never otherwise be able to answer.
> a battery powered satellite link
Battery powered? Batteries are big fire risks (ask Boeing, they know all about it). Where are you going to put the battery? You can't put it next to the transmitter (which, needing line of sight, would go on the top of the plane), because you want the battery to be serviceable with relative ease. So now you've got a power line running from the battery to the transmitter, which is no different to a power line running from the main power feed. Let's scrap the battery.
> wouldn't necessarily lose touch until impact [...] at the very least, the plane's position would be known and rescuers dispatched
Satellite linkups are flaky, they need line of sight. Planes at cruising altitude travel extremely fast. The plane's exact position would not be known.
> Critical evidence in this incident is likely long gone because of the time that has passed - even if we find it today
If the recorders can be recovered this is unlikely. Flight recorders are designed to capture the information needed to figure out what happened. Air France 447 was lost for two years, and yet investigators were still able to establish with near certainty what happened.
> Video feeds etc. would at the very least assist in preventing future tragedies and help us understand exactly what happened.
I can see how video feeds could possibly be useful in establishing what happened in a terrorist attack or hijacking. In terms of telemetric data and establishing mechanical failure causes they are not very useful.
I get that a lot of people on HN have lots of great ideas, but this is an area where you really need to know exactly how harsh the environment is before you can start throwing suggestions around like they're basic common sense.
> just cannot be this difficult ... easily and cheaply
Ever get a feature request from someone who, in a single sentence, describes months or quarters of development time and introduces all kinds of risks and dependencies, but thinks it can be done by next Tuesday?
I have, but I don't think that's relevant here. This isn't a "next Tuesday" issue. Planes have been flying over oceans for decades, and these issues have been contemplated and examined by allegedly bright people for at least that long. Yet, somehow, here we are in 2014 searching for a jet with 230 people aboard and are clueless as to where it is or how it "vanished".
I can assure you that whatever happened, it didn't vanish, and that those people likely suffered horrible, violent deaths. It is frustrating that we wouldn't apply modern technology to learn about and potentially prevent such tragedies. Even if seeing what happened in real-time couldn't have stopped this incident, knowing what happened could prevent similar incidents in the future.
It clearly states that the data for modern CVRs are held in flash storage. For something that costs thousands of dollars, and is absolutely critical to after action flight accident discovery, there's no excuse not to capture the voice data from every flight in full given the current prices of flash storage.
Probably because I said I had an iPhone :). Either that or the people downvoting it thought I was suggesting that we plug an iPhone into the cockpit and all will be well. I was simply saying that many of these problems have been solved for use in far less important applications, so it should not be that big of a stretch to get them into commercial aircraft. The suggestion that it might be possible in 2014 to install additional memory into a CVR is apparently such a technological leap that it is worth 5 downvotes :). I cannot wait for the day when it might not sound so crazy.
It's the same reason why we don't just go and install a new quad core x86 on rockets for their guidance.
Is it possible to get more than 2 hours of memory in a CVR? Sure. Why hasn't it been done? Due to a variety of other considerations on hand.
Because your iPhone isn't designed to survive a plane crash.
The requirements for both design and certification are so different that comparisons to consumer electronics (especially regarding price) are meaningless.
There is an additional data recorder that operates like this the "Quick Data Recorder" designed to be able to be removed and read regularly by the ground crew to better diagnose and fix the plane.
Unfortunately the voice recorders are really only used when the plane crashes, so the airlines aren't going to pay to put them in.
Add to this the fact that anything being hooked into critical plane systems (and a lot of them are considered critical) needs to go through hundreds of hours of testing means your not talking a cheap option.
This presents an interesting case study on how the sclerotic nature of a legislative (or bureaucratic) process sometimes restricts adoption of beneficial technology.
I could make the most awesome flight recorder ever seen, but nobody will buy it (speaking of which, who actually buys these? The airline like they do with engines or the manufacturer like they do with, say, the batteries?). They're going to keep buying the Honeywell or the Teledyne one because that's just who they buy recorders from.
I can't even fathom what would be the cost to enter this market. The engineering and testing and certification costs must be immense. Even if you do this, I don't think you'd be able to charge a premium for a better product. Imagine yourself as the Boeing 797 project manager: you're hundreds of millions over budget, the shareholders are getting upset, etc. Now your data recorder engineer comes up to you and says "here's a list of data recorders that meet federal and international standards, sorted by price." Which end of the list do you start from?
you're not Australian are you? ;)
Westminster parliamentary system.
One assumes the real press conference was delayed so he could do the grandstanding.
That said, there should have been nothing said at this stage anyway until some sort of real conformation was performed.
I guess it's all about entertaining the masses who demand their ongoing live entertainment fix.
Details of the satellite images and retasking of search aircraft would surely have leaked and the Australian government would have been rightly criticised for withholding that information had it not been announced.
That said, our government is incompetent, that can't be denied.
It doesn't help there's all these theories about hijacking or the pilot going rogue. People/Media ignore the most probable theory that the plane had mechanical issues and crashed. I had calm my mother's fears on the phone couple days ago as she heard from a media source that plane was going to be used to deliver a nuclear weapon to the US mainland which is a completely absurd theory. Real incompetence is how the media spun this event out of control in the name of ratings and ad revenue.
From their press conference, held about 30 mins ago.
is 22.72km according to WolframAlpha
I hope people take cognizance from the disappearance and learn how such a thing was even possible in our high tech world of today.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Ocean_garbage_patch ?
Compare to 16- to 24- bit resolution in your typical audio processing chain.
But I'm not keeping my hopes up.